Finding Meaning in Matariki

June 23, 2020, 11:28 a.m.

As the marking of Matariki begins, it’s important to stop and take note of the Māori new year and what it means in both a traditional and contemporary world.

Heeni Hoterene, co-owner of, says Matariki is not just about who spots the rising stars first, but a period to stop and reflect on the year that was and realign with the environment.

“Matariki is the indicator that we have come to Winter and it’s a time for chill.  Essentially it’s about being conscious of the environment, we’re saying goodbye to the old year.

“It’s not who sees Matariki first, it’s what we do to mark this time frame, how do we give that meaning?  And that’s what the essence is of celebrating the Māori new year.”

“Matariki is there the whole year and it’s just for one month that it’s hidden.  Yes, look at the stars but how are we using those tohu to create abundance.”

“The major moon is the full moon in pipiri and Whiro (black moon) in pipiri.  We celebrate the last moon of the year, Mutuwhenua and do something special like star gazing, and with Whiro the new moon we welcome the new year and all it brings. Following the Māori new year is two months of celebration.”

“We like to drag Matariki out, by Autumn it's time to see how well you’ve worked, in a traditional sense how full is your pataka kai? In a modern sense, how full is your bank account? or did you waste it all in summer? 

Matariki has had a huge resurgence in the last ten years with celebrations being marked all around the country but with the growing popularity also comes aspects of commercialisation with the idea of a public holiday also being discussed by parliament.

“Are we in a position to have a holiday? Because you generally have a holiday when you do some work.  Yes sure, perhaps we could replace Queen’s birthday with it,” Hoterene said.

“These days we see councils and big organisations putting on these big events and I love it because it’s celebrating our Māoritanga, our culture, our survival.  I love that non-Māori have access to this.

“But it’s also a private time too, we don’t need to have a big budget because sometimes the goal of it is intimacy. If we can get mainstream to see the benefits of our Māori celebrations they’ll see so much more as well, our reo,our culture, our people.” 

Tags: Matariki Culture


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